No surprises here. Roethlisberger leaning toward a return to Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and linebacker James Harrison throw the ball during NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

To the surprise of no one who has spent any amount of time at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is “leaning towards” returning to play in 2017.

Roethlisberger spoke at the Ignite Men’s Impact Weekend conference at Liberty University Friday and was asked if he’s going to play in 2017.

“I’m leaning towards it,” Roethlisberger replied.

Roethlisberger, of course, sent the world into a tailspin in January when he said on his radio show he had to think about whether or not he was going to play in 2017.

But nobody from the team’s front office necessarily believed Roethlisberger would not play. And they have been in pretty consistent contact with their star quarterback, who turned 35 in March.

As General Manager Kevin Colbert said, the Steelers do have to keep an eye on their long-term quarterback outlook because of Roethlisberger’s age and his statements, but they aren’t going to be pressed into taking a potential replacement in this year’s draft.

I’ve been asked several times about when will be the right time to take Roethlisbger’s potential replacement. I feel that it is next year.

First, next year’s group of quarterbacks potentially would include USC’s Sam Darnold, Josh Allen of Wyoming, Josh Rosen of UCLA, Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Jake Browning of Washington. Throw in some other guys, such as Tanner Magnum of BYU, Luke Falk of Washington State and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, and next’s year’s QB draft class could look a lot better than this year’s group.

Also, if the Steelers take a quarterback this year - presumably after the first round - they would have him under contract for four seasons. If Roethlisberger plays out his contract - three more years - that would mean the team would have just one season with their young quarterback as a potential starter with which to make a decision on a long-term contact extension.

If they wait until next year, they would then have two years for the youngster to learn behind Roethlisberger and then two years of starting before they had to make a decision.

And if they took a QB in the first round of next year’s draft, they would have three seasons because of the first-round option year.

@ The collegiate pro day schedule has kicked off and Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have been active.

The Steelers head coach and general manager have already been to Auburn, Wisconsin and Clemson thus far. They were in Florida on Friday to take in a Pirates game and, presumably, regroup. And Colbert also has been to Alabama.

Notable pro days coming up this week are North Carolina and UCLA on Tuesday, USC Wednesday – along with Pitt and Duquesne – Ohio State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Missouri on Thursday and Michigan on Friday.

The following week will have Florida State, Florida, Texas, Miami (Fla) and Texas A&M on the docket, among others.

Obviously, Tomlin and Colbert can’t be at all of those. But they will visit the ones that have more than just one prospect in which they are interested.

@ Tomlin and Colbert reportedly went to dinner with Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt, the younger brother of J.J. Watt and an outside linebacker prospect.

Tomlin, Colbert and outside linebacker Joey Porter met with Auburn edge rusher Carl Lawson, as well.

The Steelers also have shown a great interest in Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers, meeting with him several times.

It’s always difficult to get a gauge on the team when it’s picking so low in the draft – 30th this year – but the Steelers’ love of edge rushers is very evident this year.

Figuring out who is still going to be on the board and what order in which the team has them will be the toughest thing.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.